US Suffers From Credibility Gap In Accusing Sudan of Genocide

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Harut Sassounian Commentary 2004 September

In early September, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States viewed the killings in the Darfur region of Sudan as genocide, and called on the United Nations to take urgent action. The White House then released a statement by Pres. Bush making public his determination that the violence in Sudan amounted to genocide. Furthermore, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution declaring the massacres taking place in Sudan to be genocide.

It is interesting to note that Pres. Bush, Secretary Powell, and the congressional leaders, who have fought tooth and nail to block the most innocuous resolutions on the Armenian Genocide, are so eager to qualify the killings in Sudan as genocide. The U.S. tried to push through the UN Security Council a strongly-worded resolution on the killings in Sudan. The measure was finally adopted, but not before it was watered down after objections from China, Russia, Pakistan and Algeria. The UN did not accuse Sudan of genocide. Instead, the Security Council decided to appoint an international commission to determine "whether or not acts of genocide have occurred." Here is the ironic situation the United States government finds itself in.

In the case of Sudan, because it suits its political interests, Washington first qualifies the killings as genocide, and then votes for a resolution that asks the UN to study if genocide had occurred. On the other hand, due to opportunistic political agendas, U.S. officials are reluctant to recognize the Armenian Genocide even though 20 years ago a UN human rights panel, following a lengthy investigation, classified the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman government as genocide.

Such immoral political behavior, however, does not go unnoticed by the international public opinion. Officials in various countries have pointed out the political considerations involved in the Bush administration's pre-occupation with the killings in Sudan on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections. It is no secret that the United States has opposed the authorities in Khartoum for many years. Pres. Clinton even ordered a missile attack on a Sudanese factory, claiming that it produced a dangerous chemical that turned out to be a harmless pharmaceutical substance.

The sad part in all of this is that a truly great human tragedy is unfolding in Sudan right now that may indeed qualify as genocide. However, successive US governments, by their cynical behavior, ignoring the worst crimes of their friends and condemning the slightest violations of their foes, have undermined their own credibility in the eyes of the world, to the point that even when their assessments are accurate, no one believes them anymore. To regain its credibility as well as the respect of the world, the US government has to make a principled stand towards its friends and foes alike.

TARC Moderator is about to Lay a Big Egg

I disclosed several months ago in this column that the moderator of the infamous Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, David L. Phillips, was busy writing a book on his misadventures with a few duped Armenians and several wily Turks.

At the time of making that announcement, I had commented that since Phillips had committed scores of factual errors in his brief anti-Armenian opinion column published in the Wall Street Journal, how many more mistakes would he make in a much longer writing? We are about to find out. I, for one, can't wait to take apart this soon to be published book: "Unsilencing the Past: Track-Two diplomacy and Turkish Armenian Reconciliation."

The publisher, Berghahn Books, in seeking pre-publication orders for this $40 volume, states that Phillips, a Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, undertook to bring Armenians and Turks together and "to work with them towards a peaceful resolution of the enmity that had made any contact between them taboo. His lively account of the difficult negotiations makes fascinating reading; it shows that the newly developed 'track-two diplomacy' is an effective tool for reconciling even intractable foes through fostering dialog, contact and cooperation."

It would be fascinating to see how Phillips manages to present his miserable failure at TARC as a brilliant success!